Push

By George Bilgere
Featured art by Clay Banks

I’m trying to look as if I’m suffering.
I have this anguished expression on my face
but it’s wasted since I’m wearing a surgical mask
and anyway the focus here is really on my wife
and the doctor is right there between her legs
and he’s shouting Push, and my wife
is doing this astounding thing, she’s pushing
yet another human being into the world, a world
that so far seems to be pushing back,

and the baby’s heartbeat is down to 90
so the doc says, I think maybe one more try,
then we do the Caesarean, so things in the room
really are a bit tense, it’s definitely a moment
that demands a lot of attention, and my wife
is gathering whatever shreds of strength
remain in the shaking exhausted sleeve of flesh
her body has become, the blood and sweat and fluids
everywhere, and this is It!—when I hear
the attending nurse standing just behind me
saying to this guy in scrubs standing next to her,
I think he’s the anesthesiologist’s assistant,

Well, just because Karen says she has a boyfriend
doesn’t necessarily mean she won’t go out with you,
and the guy says, his voice rising because my wife
really is screaming quite loudly at this point,
Yeah, OK, I guess I should give it a try, I mean
what’s the worst that can happen, other than
getting shot down and looking like a total fool,

and the nurse says, as the doctor is shouting PUSH, 
Yeah, but hasn’t it been like a long dry spell for you?
Aren’t you getting a little desperate here? And the guy
laughs and my wife screams again and the doctor
says Yes and into the world comes the bloody head
followed by the naked lovely bloody little boy
insanely ill-prepared for any of this, and I guess
the guy actually is going to ask Karen out
and I say go for it.


George Bilgere’s most recent collection of poetry is Imperial (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2014). His work is familiar to NPR audiences through his frequent appearances on Garrison Keillor’s The Writer’s Almanac. He has received grants and fellowships from the NEA, the Pushcart Foundation, the Witter Bynner Foundation, and the Ohio Arts Council. He lives and teaches in Cleveland, which has made him hardy and resolute.

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